Weekly Reads: Poll Time Edition

As I was going through the archived posts and adding pictures to them for the new theme, I noticed a trend emerging. Normally, I post 3-4 posts per week. This is actually pretty good (go me!). Then I noticed that one of those three posts is the weekly reads posts — which is fine, but I don’t want Sententia to just turn into a link farm! :)

While ultimately, I write Sententia for me, I would be lying if I said I didn’t also write for all you readers. (Seriously, I get giddy when I show an increase in traffic for a day. And an actual comment? Be still my beating heart!) So I thought I’d pass the question by you folks. Is having one of three posts be a weekly reads post too much? (Poll is embedded, RSS folks, so click your way on through).

[polldaddy poll=”1439550″]

If you would like to pass on anything you think I might be interested in, post the link as a comment to this thread! I’m always looking for new things to explore. Note that comments containing multiple links are flagged for moderation, so if your note doesn’t show up right away, don’t worry!

Made Me Think

What’s the Point of Education (from Early Retirement Extreme). In a world where going to college often means all-nighters to finish papers and cramming knowledge just long enough to write the test, what exactly is the point? In this article, Jacob argues that we’ve gotten way off track with our goals for education. A degree doesn’t so much show what you’ve learned as your IQ and your ability to make a simple problem into an overcomplicated one … can’t say that I necessarily disagree! 😉

The Objective of Education is Learning, Not Teaching (from [email protected]). As a response to Jacob’s question, above, this article from Wharton suggests that education has lost its way. So often, we focus on the experience of the teachers. Are your methods good teaching methods? Are you teaching the right things? After all, our system is set up to suggest that if you provide quality instruction, learning will follow. Right? Not so much. Instead, the goal ought to be to help students explore and learn. Let students direct their learning, and they will end up much better off. Hm… sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Living Paycheck to Paycheck (from Steve Pavlina). One of the things that education can’t guarantee you is safe and secure employment. We’ve learned that much from the past few weeks and months. In this vintage-Pavlina-post, Steve explores ways that living paycheck to paycheck is affected by our mental models. As one might expect, he advocates entrepreneurship as the solution to this problem, but even if you’re not of the self-employment ilk, there is great value in this article. I was particularly touched by his discussion of reasonable vs. unreasonable expense cutting.

Some Thoughts on Starting a Side Business in a Down Economy (from The Simple Dollar). Speaking of entrepreneurship, it doesn’t have to be a big, scary, nasty word. There are lots of simple and easy ways to create value and receive income from it. As Trent discusses, the key is to identify those value-adding-areas, and then approach it as a hobby with benefits. Good article for those looking for a bit of extra cash.

Weekly Reads: Switch to Monday Edition

No, you didn’t travel in time, and you’re not going crazy. This week’s link collection is being posted on a Monday. As I mentioned yesterday, I’m going to experiment with posting the Weekly Reads at the beginning of the work week rather than on the weekend.

The major reason is that it gives me a bit more flexibility if I happen to head out of town on the weekend or (gasp!) have plans Saturday night — previously, I would have written the piece on Thursday or Friday, and just queued it up. But doing that means that I potentially miss a whole bunch of awesome articles to pass on!

Speaking of Saturday, this past one was Valentine’s Day (or, as some folks I know call it, “singles awareness day”). My day was pretty low key, and featured mostly some good old fashioned home cooking. The highlight of the day had to be some oh so good Chocolate souffles (note, don’t check the link if you’re hungry and/or a chocoholic!)

If you would like to pass on anything you think I might be interested in, post the link as a comment to this thread! I’m always looking for new things to explore. Note that comments on this site are moderated, especially if they contain links, so if it doesn’t show up right away, don’t worry!

Made Me Think

What is School for? and Learning All the Time (from Seth Godin). This pair of posts from acclaimed author Seth Godin reminded me of my early post on education (and how it’s not for everyone). Lifelong learning is a big deal, and it ought to be. Schooling people to think and act a certain way? Not so much. As a bonus, in Learning All the Time, Godin provides a link to the 100 Best Business Books of all time. There’s enough there to keep you busy for quite some time.

Remember Your Vowels to Manage Conflict on Twitter (from TwiTip). Not just for Twitter, actually, this link is a fantastic formula for handling conflict wherever you encounter it. The key is hidden in the vowels: Acknowledge, Engage, Ignore, Open and Understand. My struggle is usually with Ignore — once I get past that point and onto Open and Understand, I’m alright. Being able to identify that as a potential pitfall will be a valuable tool for me going forward.

The Biology of Belief (from Time). It really shouldn’t be a surprise that someone with an interest in both science and religion would find this article fascinating. I personally believe that, despite what the “death to religion” crowd would have you believe, religion must have remained a vital part of thousands of years of human culture for a reason — it must “work” on some level. That something like prayer can actually change the way the brain works, permanently? Very cool.

Money Matters

Retirement Calculations (5-part series; from Canadian Dream: Free at 45). The keeners among us are busy maxing out retirement plans, collecting income statements from employers, and maybe even filing taxes in hopes of a juicy return. For me, it’s also a time to dream — and plan — about achieving financial independence and having the option of leaving the workforce. If you haven’t given much thought to the numbers, or just aren’t sure where to begin (and are Canadian) this series is way cool.

7 Concrete Tips To Curb Your Spending (from Alex Shalman). One of the things that’s becoming more and more apparent given the “economic climate” of the day is that many people have been spending more than they earn, on a regular basis. The problem is compounded by job loss, but even those still employed are having to take a good look at their income and expenses. I’ve never been a big spender, so a lot of what Shalman suggests is familiar territory for me. But it’s a good reminder, and gave me some good ideas for saving money, myself.

Weekly Reads: Connecting Edition

Despite what you may think if you only know me from my blog, I actually am not a terribly social person. It’s not that I find it hard to make that initial connection with people, but that in the past, I just haven’t really gone beyond that. In some cases, I would go so far as to completely avoid opportunities to “get to know someone” more in-depth — whether it be making excuses to not join in on some activity or not keeping up with connections I had previously made.

For whatever reason(s), though, that has begun to change. Take this weekend for example. Normally, if you were to ask me if I had plans for the weekend, I would come up with something like “not really” or “going grocery shopping”. You know, real ‘connection’ stuff. However, this weekend, I not only went grocery shopping to the farmer’s market, but I’ve also got plans for lunch with some extended family. And later this week, I’m meeting a friend from university to catch up. So maybe I’m learning a thing or two.

It has got me thinking about ways to make connections, though. In some ways, my honesty on this blog has I think reflected on my new(ish) search for connections. Similarly, my willingness to try different things, like joining in a family lunch now and then. It will be interesting to see how this progresses.

Anyway, enough of that — now on to the links!

If you would like to pass on anything you think I might be interested in, post the link as a comment to this thread! I’m always looking for new things to explore. Note that comments on this site are moderated, especially if they contain links, so if it doesn’t show up right away, don’t worry!

Made Me Think

Tax-Free Savings Account — How Should We Use It? (from Million Dollar Journey). Canadian savers take note: you’ve probably seen all the commercials on TV from the banks trying to get you to save using their Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA). While some people are looking at TFSAs as a way to save money for every day, the consensus amongst financial advisors seems to be that it makes more sense to use as a retirement vehicle. So how does it compare to the good old RRSP — and which should you favor when it comes time to planning your retirement?

Clear and Effective Communication in Web Design (from Smashing Magazine). “Clear and effective communication” is important whether you’re involved in web design or not; it just so happens that on the web, there seems to be a lot less of it. As a web designer, I often ran into a problem where my clients just wouldn’t care about their content — so long as the page looked good, that was it. I found this article from Smashing Magazine is a good one from both perspectives: it not only showed the value of clear and effective communication online, but it also showed how you need to be clear and effective in all your communications. Otherwise, you can’t expect others to know where you’re coming from, or where you’re going.

Gay woman fights over hospital visitation rights in Miami court (from The Miami Herald). Let’s put aside the “gay” aspect of this just for a moment. In this case, we have a woman who has power of attorney over medical treatment. She is not allowed to see the patient, nor is kept aprised of her condition. We have three children. They are not allowed to see their mother, who is dying. Does this sound right to you? Why is it that as soon as people hear or see the word “gay” or “lesbian”, simple things (like lawful Power of Attorney) are so simply disregarded? Never mind that the woman was forbidden from seeing the person she loved (and had loved, for seventeen years) on her deathbed. It’s stories like this that remind me that no matter how far we think we’ve come, we’ve still got a long way to go.

“What Next?” The Third Stage of Personal Finance (from Get Rich Slowly). So you’ve paid off your debt, have started saving at something of a higher rate than 0.02%, have set some financial goals, and are living well within your means. Now what? That’s the question that J.D. tackles in this Get Rich Slowly article. It was a good article for me to read, as I find myself bordering on this stage. This part especially resonated with me: “I’m going to write about those times it makes sense to spend — or to invest — for things that make you happy.”  In the search for frugality, let’s not lose sight that ultimately, money is a tool, and it doesn’t do you any good if you refuse to ever use it.

On Music

Auto-Tune: Why Pop Music Sounds Perfect (from Time). I remember in high school, spending time in the recording studio with our vocal jazz group. To this day, there are still some of the recordings I listen to and cringe just a little bit, because I can hear a note here and there that is just not quite on (by myself, of course!). I know that on other occasions, I didn’t miss the note, but when it comes to recording, you often just take the best overall “take” and let the small things through. Or at least, that used to be the way you’d do it. Now, technology has allowed producers to change pitch when it’s not quite right — it’s likened to “photoshop for the human voice.” Strange, but true!

Piano Medley of Mario Tunes (YouTube video). Because I was in a vocal jazz group, I acquired a taste for all sorts of jazz music — from the classics up to the newest stylings. Because I played piano for said group (I sang, too), I acquired an appreciation for jazz pianists and the work that goes in to making all of those individually wierd sounding chords sound fantastic. That’s why I liked this swing-style Mario medley. A neat twist on some familiar tunes. I especially love the “sound effects” (coins, etc.) thrown in.

Weekly Reads: Back to Work Edition

Alright — the New Year is upon us, which means it’s time to get back at it. Some of you probably have already been back at work for a day (or more), but my first day back will be Monday. I’m interested to see what kind of things will have piled up — a two week vacation normally would see quite a pile accumulate, but the school was closed for most of that time period so all bets are off.

On the plus side, having an extra few days off has helped me almost fend off this cold, as well as gave me a chance to catch up on a bunch of reading — as evidenced by the somewhat more lengthy list of links this week.

If you would like to pass on anything you think I might be interested in, post the link as a comment to this thread! I’m always looking for new things to explore. Note that comments on this site are moderated, especially if they contain links, so if it doesn’t show up right away, don’t worry!

Made Me Think

2009 Focus – Intimate Relationships and Polyamorous Relationship Q&A (from Personal Development for Smart People). If you’re afraid of a little controversy, don’t like thinking outside of social norms, or want everyone to live “normally”, you probably gave up on Steve Pavlina long ago. But if you haven’t already, there’s a lot of things in these two posts to get you thinking. Since the beginning of the New Year, Steve’s been spending some time on his blog explaining his next direction in personal growth: in the area of relationships. I know I’ll be watching and reading.

Bathtubs, Lightening Bolts, and the Myth of Writer’s Block (from Copyblogger). I think I’ve read about a thousand posts, articles and books about how to get past writer’s block (and other creative blocks) by “just doing it”. This is the first one that has gone so far as to call Writer’s Block a myth, though. And I think it’s an accurate description — if we say that we can “get past” writer’s block, we’re still acknowledging that it exists (and thereby giving it power over us). If you instead just get down to work instead of worrying about the block, you’d be much better off.

Why Mood Boards Matter (from Web Designer Depot). I have a confession to make. When I feel like turning my brain off and just watch some TV, one of the first places I’ll go is the design shows on HGTV. I’ve jealously seen how interior and exterior designers can pull together mood boards that just. look. fabulous. But the idea of using mood boards for other types of design (like websites)? This article was a “duh” moment for me — it’s a great idea, not only from the designer’s perspective but also from the clients’.

The Best of Get Rich Slowly (2008 Edition) (from Get Rich Slowly). Of all the year-end round-ups that I read, this one was my favorite. J.D. is one of my favorite bloggers — not only because he’s a great personal finance blogger, but because he always finds a way to tie it in to the bigger pictures. His annual round-up reflects that, and I highly recommend clicking through and reading his featured articles

Related Reading

Maybe it’s not so surprising, but there were a whole lot of posts on setting goals rather than resolutions for this New Year’s. I guess great minds do think alike! Here’s a link to some of the ones that I came across; I won’t give them each a whole lot of description since many of the ideas are repeated throughout. But each one brings a unique and slightly different perspective on the subject.

  1. What Will You Learn This Year? (from The Simple Dollar) — this is my favorite one of the lot. What a great approach!
  2. Why You Should Do New Year’s Resolutions All Year Round (but don’t call them that) (from Retire At 40)
  3. New Year’s Resolutions? Not Me! (from Early Retirement Extreme)
  4. How to Be Damned Serious About Your New Year’s Goals (from Rock Your Day)
  5. And of course, Never Set Another Resolution, Again and It’s Not About Self-Discipline: 10 Tips for Reaching Your Goals from yours truly

Also, related to my article on our frugal Christmas party, The Simple Dollar described how they frugally celebrated the New Year — more great ideas, and even a controversy about the ethics of BYOB which broke out in the comments!

Sententia’s Best Of 2008?

The last week it seems as though every website that I follow has had at least one post dedicated to their year in review (be it personal or site related). I debated writing a best-of for Sententia, but it feels a little goofy when you consider that I’ve only been actively writing since the beginning of December!

That being said, 2008 did leave me a lot to be grateful for, both on the site and off. So here’s some of my “best of 2008” moments, in case you care :-)

  • A new job in higher education where I have a chance to grow and learn, both professionally and personally. I work in a hugely supportive environment, with great co-workers, and I’ve already had a chance to take on leadership roles which have been both challenging and rewarding.
  • Learning a tonne. At home, if I had to identify the one area that I’ve learned most about this year, it would be about money and finances. I was always pretty good with money; I graduated two university degrees without debt, have always paid off my credit card every month, always spent less than I earned, and put money away. But this year, I pushed myself to learn about things like frugality, basic investing theory and most excitingly, financial independance. Careful planning allowed J and I to purchase our first home in August, while still making major contributions to our short- and long-term savings.  The two most valuable books I read on PF this year are the two classics: Your Money or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence: Revised and Updated for the 21st Century (I read the previous edition), and The Four Pillars of Investing: Lessons for Building a Winning Portfolio.
  • But even more importantly, I’ve had a chance to learn more about myself. This year, I learned to be comfortable being a scanner and embracing all of my wide interests. For example, I got to work on a marketing project, communications officer, lead designer, specialist, consultant and more; talk about perfect opportunity. Embracing my “scanner-ness” is also what led me back to Sententia…
  • And of course, most recently, the relaunch of Sententia has been pretty exciting. In the month since the official relaunch in early December, nearly 200 people have encountered the site and read some of my musings. Those numbers may not be huge in the world of blogging, but I’m not after huge numbers — all I care about is having a chance to share with you all. So with that in mind, here’s a quick highlight of my top 3 favorite posts of 2008:

How about you — what was your “best of 2008”?